Don’t Let Your Intern Pitch

I recently read a great post suggesting that you shouldn’t use interns to pitch the media. The post references a recent article on do-it-yourself PR tactics that suggests using an intern to pitch the media. Using an intern to pitch your news is like having an assistant shop for your spouse. It lacks the personal touch and sends the message that you really don’t care.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think interns should get real-world experience from an internship. If your organization is willing to invest the time in training an intern on media relations, participating in phone pitches, proofing and editing their email pitches, and giving them one-on-one coaching throughout the process, then by all means go ahead. Of course, if you had the free time to train an intern on media relations, you probably wouldn’t need an intern to do the pitching for you in the first place. Most of the time (and there are always exceptions), organizations hire an intern to pick up the slack. They think an intern is cheap labor. [Read more…]

How Do Journalists View Follow Up Phone Calls?

Most journalists prefer receiving (relevant) PR pitches via email, but how do they feel about follow up calls? This has been one of the most popular topic suggestions on the blog to date, so I figured I’d take some time to explore the topic further. I’ve received feedback from more than 50 journalists so far, and here’s what I’ve found:

  • 76% of journalists are fine with follow-up calls, provided the information you’re pitching is relevant to their coverage area and/or is time sensitive in nature.
  • 12% of journalists hate you. Well, not really, but they hate follow-up calls and don’t think you should make them. If they think the information is interesting, they’ll call you.
  • 12% of journalists love you. Also not really, but they like PR professionals to follow up. Most in this group said they are overwhelmed with information and don’t want to miss information they may have skimmed over.

I was surprised by the variance in the responses. A high percentage of journalists are fine with follow up calls; I thought this would be the opposite. Then again, most of the journalists I talked to rely on quality information from the PR community for the stories they work on. There are dozens of journalists and bloggers I can think of that would chew you out if you followed up with them, it’s really a judgment call based on how well you know your information and the journalist you’re pitching. [Read more…]

CAN-SPAM and PR Pitches

I’ve thought a lot about the topic of PR and spam in recent months. Coming from a PR and marketing background, I’ve managed PR and email marketing campaigns. I understand the rules of CAN-SPAM compliance as they apply to email marketing, but not so much when it comes to the unsolicited PR pitch.

On the surface, it’s easy to assume that if a journalist or blogger hasn’t opted-in to receive information from a PR firm, it must be a violation of CAN-SPAM. If you read the CAN-SPAM guidelines on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website, you could easily see how PR messages could be considered spam by some media professionals. For example:

  • You must include an opt-out – a lot of agencies provide – and PR database vendors – provide mechanisms to be removed from a distribution list. There are many that provide no opt-out, and those that do, may not have adequate systems in place to ensure others in the organization don’t send to the email on the next campaign.
  • You can’t use misleading information in the subject line – a simple reference to “the world’s first” or “the leading company” could be interpreted as misleading, along with any other tactic that attempts to convince the journalist to open your email. But that’s nit-picking, and not really what the law is designed for, right?
  • If a recipient opts-out, their request must be processed within 10 days, and the sender must have a system in place to manage opt-outs for at least 30 days. Technically, if a journalist says “take me off your list,” you can’t send them information again for at least 30 days, regardless of the subject matter.

Do PR agencies violate CAN-SPAM? The short answer is “not really.” Journalists and bloggers do not have to opt-in to receive information from PR, but they do have the right to opt-out. The real issue with the PR spam problem is that many journalists and bloggers do not opt-out, but rather work to solve the problem on their own, creating email filtering rules or their own homegrown list of PR spammers.

If they did formally opt-out, and the agency continued to send them information, it would technically be in violation. A journalist could file a complaint with the FTC, but there is no guarantee that this would be enforced, given the fact that most agencies are not serious offenders. And most of the journalists we’ve talked to said they simply don’t have the time or desire to take such drastic measures, even though they are frequently frustrated with the amount of “PR spam” they receive.

Regardless of whether a journalist opts-out, or takes things to the extreme and files a complaint, agencies are within their right to send unsolicited emails to journalists and bloggers. However, those who have not opted-in may be more inclined to report your agency’s email as spam, potentially affecting your ability to send email with a high deliverability rate.

If an ISP (Internet Service Provider) regularly receives complaints that your email is spam (when they click the “report spam” button in some email clients), you may be added to the ISPs blacklist, and all email you send to users of that ISP will be labeled as spam.

Read on for “Best Practices for Staying Off Spam Lists”. [Read more…]

Does Your Pitch Suck? Find Out at

your-pitch-sucksWhat do you call a new service that promises to help PR people develop better pitches? I’d struggle to come up with a more sensational, attention-grabbing name than Your Pitch Sucks. The founders of Your Pitch Sucks claim that 98% of press releases are tossed in the trash can after being given less than five seconds of review. They also estimate that companies waste more than $450M each year sending out press releases that end up in a “gigantic black hole.” While I couldn’t find the source for their claims, I have no doubt that the numbers are accurate (actually, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that companies spend a lot more than that on sending out poor-quality releases).

If you’re serious about putting together a solid pitch, the folks at Your Pitch Sucks want to help you out – for a small fee that is. For a small investment of $150 to $200 per pitch, an expert team of PR professionals will evaluate your pitch or press release, providing you with expert notes on how to make your pitch NOT suck. For the extra $50, you get a phone consultation with a PR expert. Heck, they’ll even put together a media list for you, targeting print, broadcast or other outlets for as little as $400. When you consider the price of alternative services, this can be a great deal – especially if you end up with a better pitch that gets noticed by more of those outlets.

Now I haven’t tried out the service, so I’m in no place to endorse or critique their quality one way or the other, but I’ll admit that the concept could be very helpful for those that don’t know how to put together a solid pitch (or those that have had lackluster success pitching the media in the past). The Your Pitch Sucks team claims to have successfully placed news stories in The New York Times, Time, BusinessWeek, and The Washington Post, as well as in major broadcast outlets such as The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America and The Today Show. With that track record, it couldn’t hurt to give them a shot.

Have you tried the service out? Did it help you get more interest from journalists? Let us know.

To Pitch or Not to Pitch? That is the Question (And Answer)

If you work in media relations, you’re probably tired of hearing all the examples of PR people out of control, sending journalists and bloggers information they don’t care about and will never write about. After all, this PR spam makes it harder for you to do your job. Journalists and bloggers spend less time and energy reviewing pitches, if they look at them at all – and it’s all because a few (or more) of us haven’t played by the rules.

Over the course of the past couple of years, we’ve heard countless examples of PR out of control, and the steps some creative bloggers are taking to fight back. Some of the more infamous examples (you know the ones) are Chris Anderson’s list of PR spammers, Gina Trapani’s wiki of “PR Companies Who Spam Bloggers“, and the more recent “Three Quarters of the PR email I Receive is Irrelevant. Why?” post by Josh Bernoff, in which he provides a thorough analysis of the email he receives from PR people in relation to the topics he blogs about and the information he finds useful.

What’s the problem? It’s simple, a lot of PR folks aren’t taking the time to thoroughly research and evaluate the outlets and contacts they pitch before clicking the “send” button. Many don’t read the content journalists and bloggers write, nor do they understand what type of information those contacts want to receive. Before you flood my comments with “I don’t spam journalists” responses, I realize you’re not ALL guilty of this. But as Bernoff points out in his post, a lot of the information sent to bloggers and journalists is useless. We’ve seen this as a recurring theme in the journalists we talk to – we haven’t found any exceptions.

Whether you’re just starting out in PR, or you’ve been pitching you’re heart out for longer than I’ve been alive, it’s really simple to stay off PR blacklists and to stop this type of response from fed-up journalists and bloggers – only send relevant information to them. [Read more…]

Journalists and Bloggers Are In Control… Don’t Piss Them Off

If you work in media relations, journalists and bloggers are your boss. I think a lot of media relations pros overlook this basic fact when working with the media. It’s easy to think the client is the boss, since they’re paying the bills each month. Throw best practices out the window and pitch the story – you need something for this week’s status report, right?

Really though, you can’t make a journalist or blogger write or talk about you. YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL, they are. Why am I writing about this? Because I keep seeing complaint, after complaint, after complaint about how PR reps are pitching the media today. A lot of PR pros consider themselves equal. They make the mistake of believing it’s a two-way street. They think journalists and bloggers need them as much as they need them. They don’t. They keep telling you they don’t, but you don’t believe them. [Read more…]